If you are on this page, you are seriously considering getting a terrapin as a pet. This section covers the NEEDS of a terrapin. I am not talking about luxury, I am talking about basic care for a terrapin to keep it alive and healthy. I will cover what you need to get when getting a terrapin and the approximate cost because that is probably the difference between keeping one and releasing them. At the end of each need, I will further list my personal recommendations based on my own experiences to make it easier for you to do your own shopping should you wish to follow. I will further cover maintenance of the pet in another section. Do note that you may get most of the stuff used (second hand) to save money. Not everything needs to be brand new, that’s just bad finance.
The most basic of foods for terrapins are turtle commercial pellets. The pellets serves as a staple diet to your terrapin as it packs the nutrients required. There are different brands available, I started out with Nutrafin pellets solely because it has the basic nutrients and is readily available in mainstream pet stores, but now I have switched over to Hikari and Mazuri pellets. It’s more expensive but my turtles are bigger now and their pellets are bigger too. Most people get this right or can’t be so wrong about this so I am not too concerned about this. Do keep in mind that baby terrapins require smaller pellet sizes.
Nutrafin turtle pellets
Mazuri aquatic turtle pellets
Hikari turtle pellets
Tank (3ft and above)
Pet stores typically will package your terrapins with an island tub, because they give the illusion that it is cheap to keep a terrapin. Serious keepers will consider long term and will not even consider that. It is way too small and will not last. End of the day, it will be like throwing your dollars away. It is common thinking that terrapins must be kept in only 1 inch deep water or they risk drowning. There are 3 problems with that. Firstly, terrapins are semi-aquatic animals, which means they can be on land and water. They swim for a living and only go on land to soak in the sun. Their natural habitats are ponds and lakes. So they are very comfortable swimming in deep waters and will not drown. Secondly, terrapins have high bio-waste i.e. they shit a lot. The reason your terrapin tanks are always so smelly and dirty is because of low water volume and lack of filtration. I have seen many keepers doing daily tank cleaning because of the stench. If you have a proper tank with higher water level and good filtration, I promise you could possibly reduce your water change to once a month! Thirdly, terrapins need enough land area to completely dry off, otherwise they will risk getting shell rot.Get a proper aquarium tank, a normal fish tank, there is no such thing as a turtle-specific tank. I would strongly suggest getting a tank that will last and not something you have to keep upgrading every few months because your terrapins became too big. A 3ft tank is a good start that will last you a long time with proper feeding.
Do note that unless you have a van or lorry, you would have to factor in transportation/manpower costs as well. These services vary from places to places. Therefore, I am not able to include approximate prices accurately. Personally, I bought my 4ft tank and stand ($200 – used) and sourced out third party movers ($100 – Driver and lorry), I had to do much of the carrying to save cost on manpower.
3ft(L) by 1.5ft(W) by 1.5ft(H)
3ft(L) by 2ft(W) by 2ft(H)
4ft(L) by 2ft(W) by 2ft(H)
When one thinks about filtration, most people will associate it with fish keepers. You keep fishes, you need filtration, common knowledge, but what about terrapins? Most new keepers do not consider filtration as a need in keeping terrapins, which could not be more wrong. If anything, terrapins need more filtration than fishes as they produce much more bio-wastes. Having a good filter together with high water volume will instantly eliminate the stench and your water-change frequencies, which means more time appreciating your terrapins and less time on grueling maintenance. I will save the technicalities of filtration for another section. Every filtration system has a pump that filters water at a certain rate. A rule of thumb would be to get a filtration system that is able to filter 3 to 5 times the volume of water in your tank in any given hour. For example, if your tank holds 50 litres of water, your filtration pump rating should be at least 150 litres/hour to 250 litres/hour.
Keep in mind that filtration systems require additional purchase of media, namely bio-media and mechanical-media.
Sunsun canister filters + media (cheap and good)
Eheim canister filters + media (very expensive but robust)
Basking area + Basking lamp
Terrapins in the wild requires land area allowing them to completely dry off and soak in the sun. This prevents shell rot and also promotes calcium absorption, without which will be fatal. As pets, we have to simulate these conditions through basking area and basking lights.
There are many commercially available basking areas sold in pet stores. Some use magnets while others use suction cups. Most of these basking areas are more suitable for small to medium-sized terrapins. Personally for me, I DIY my own basking because my terrapins are too big and I want something that lasts. Basking areas do not need to be so fancy, terrapins only care for a place to dry off. Get creative!
Basking lights are special lights essential to keeping terrapins healthy. It prevents their shells from turning soft due to lack of calcium absorption. It is IMPORTANT to note that you cannot use any normal light bulb. You need a light bulb that specifically emits UVB light. These can be purchased from some pet shops and online. I would highly recommend not getting used bulbs as UVB emission from bulbs deteriorates over time.
China non-branded lamp
Exoterra UVB 5.0 bulb
To be frank, the chlorine level in Singapore tap water is not high. Turtles could live in water directly from the tap, so why waste money on chlorine remover? This is less to do with your turtles and more to do with your filtration. If chlorine is not removed from the water, the good bacteria in the filter will not thrive and clean your water for you. This is especially crucial when you do water change.
All these items you need are not told to you by the pet store. This is much more than the package pet stores are typically selling, i.e. turtle island tub ($20) and food pellets ($7-small), making it a total of less than $30, and MUCH more expensive.
So what is the real financial damage to own a turtle? Check out Money Matters.